Release Date: Dec 16, 2008
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Alternative
The puppy dog eyes, under bite and pubescent-looking torso of Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz have aided his band's ascent to the position of chief poster boys of the now lucrative emo scene. The twist being that he's neither his band's singer, nor its creative driving force. Fall Out Boy, rather, are led by Patrick Stump, a marshmallow-faced anti-frontman who has steered the Chicago four-piece from angst-fuelled post-Green Day punk rockers into a multi-platinum-selling pop machine.
Uncertainty about FOB's intentions is a problem intensified by how lyricist and de facto leader Pete Wentz writes every line with a smirk (it's a wonder he's yet to title a song with an emoticon) and how singer Patrick Stump treats every lyric as if it's sacrosanct, never acknowledging that there just might be a pun there. Stump's one quirk is an unhealthy obsession with Elvis Costello, borrowing so many of Costello's overheated mannerisms that when the man himself appears for a show-stopping cameo on "What a Catch, Donnie," it takes a moment to register that he's really in the studio singing on an overblown song that also features members of Gym Class Heroes and the Academy Is. .
Among the many swindles perpetuated by the music biz — payola, hidden ticket fees, Milli Vanilli — one of the biggest has been selling Fall Out Boy as emo, punk, or any other snarling, eyelinered iteration of angry-boys-with-guitars. In truth, a power-pop heart beats beneath those no-day-job tattoos, and their fourth album, Folie á Deux (which loosely translates as ”a madness shared by two”), is testament to that, even if it sometimes flags. Folie kicks off smartly with the near-perfect radio valentine ”Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes,” a towering guitar anthem built on wedding-march organs, thundering drums, and singer Patrick Stump’s limber vocals.
Fall Out Boy are big enough in America that this album's original release date (November 4, election day) was changed so as to avoid distracting the public's attention from Obama and McCain. The band made their millions by offering catchy complaint-rock, epitomised by their 2007 hit This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race. Folie à Deux is mainly more of the same, but its guest list (Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry et al) trumps fellow emo-peddlers My Chemical Romance and Panic at the Disco.
I met Fall Out Boy once. Well, I met Pete Wentz, photogenic bassist and lyricist of the ‘Boy. They were playing at Cardiff University’s Great Hall; I was working on the Union’s reception for an afternoon-into-evening stretch. I remember it because a friend of mine – a few years younger than me and something of a mega-fan – was up to see them, and fairly over the moon about it too.
Perhaps Fall Out Boy’s predicament can best be illustrated by the Alternative Press issue that appeared the month preceding Folie a Deux‘s release. Though Fall Out Boy were the central focus of the issue, AP actually produced two versions of the cover: one which said “Fall Out Boy Rule!” and the other, aptly, declaring that “Fall Out Boy Sucks!” What this signified is how even in the pop-punk community, no group was more polarizing than this Illinois-bred emo four-piece. On one hand, Fall Out Boy’s music was fast-becoming the least-interesting part of the group.